Youth speak out on Riviera Beach violence, express frustration with elected officials

Unemployment, parenting impacting RR youth

Police continue to search for leads in a shooting that left Georgia resident James Price, 41, dead outside a Riviera Beach apartment complex on Monday night.

The man who died was found in a parking lot by police near the 16000 block of 28th Street West, just across the street from a busy neighborhood. Many of those residents are young people who said they have become accustomed to the flashing police lights of a shooting investigation.
"You see now, all the young kids, they're thugs. I even had a couple of friends that died at a young age. They didn't even get a chance to see 18," said 17-year-old young man who feared being identified.

The 17-year-old teen who wished to remain anonymous said the violence usually starts in the streets, based off of a misunderstanding or confrontation gone wrong. He, like others WPTV NewsChannel 5 spoke with, does not have a father figure or strong set of parents to guide him.

"That's somebody you really need in life. But when you got no father or parents, as kids they're going to do what think is right," said the teen.

Reul Smith, 27, has been in similar situations as many Riviera Beach teens experience. Smith said he sees the violence ignited by joblessness. Workforce Alliance figures indicate Palm Beach County's unemployment rate above the national average at 9.8%.

"What else you going to do when you're hanging out in the streets? You're going to get into mischief you know what I'm saying? It's not that they're bad people, it's just that they don't know what else to do with their time," said Smith.

Some young people in Riviera Beach said part of the blame is on elected officials within the city, characterizing some of their work as "empty promises."

"They don't see an action plan and I understand exactly what they mean," said Billie Brooks, a Riviera Beach city council member.

Brooks said this time the situation is different. She said the city is taking responsibility by creating a task force and holding listening session to help the community.

Some questioned the timing by elected officials and wondering why they are doing it now.

"Maybe it was just a wake up call. You know we can hear and see and and some point it really hits you that you got a problem," said Brooks.

The solution in eyes of Brooks is that she needs to hit the streets and put more emphasis on talking to young people who often find themselves at the front lines of violence.
Brooks will travel in October to Baltimore to see about bringing a program to the area that utilizes former criminals as mentors to the youth, using their past mistakes to help create better futures.
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